HOW TO MAKE LARD AND CRACKLINGS IN A CROCKPOT
All that day and the next, Ma was trying out the lard in the big iron pots on the cookstove. Laura and Mary carried wood and watched the fire. It must be hot, but not too hot, or the lard would burn. The big pots simmered and boiled, but they must not smoke. From time to time Ma skimmed out the brown cracklings. She put them in a cloth and squeezed out every bit of the lard, and then she put the cracklings away. She would use them to flavor johnny-cake later. Cracklings were very good to eat, but Laura and Mary could have only a taste. They were too rich for little girls, Ma said.
(LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS - by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Our first week of reading the Prairie Primer had us making cracklings in cornbread as an activity. What are cracklings, you ask? Simply put, they are the connective tissue of the fat of a pig after the lard has been rendered. I wouldn't dream of doing this with an industrial farm-raised pig, but I have no problem eating/using the fat off a pig raised on a small farm or homestead.
Rather than render the fat on a stove (I don't enjoy the smell), I put my fat in a crockpot, put the lid on and turn it on low, stirring occasionally if desired. I put my crockpot outside so I don't have to smell it. I cook it until all the lard is rendered out and the connective tissue is crispy. Overnight works in my crockpot. This is what it should look like after you've drained the lard off, pouring it through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. I use the lard for making easy homemade milk soap using a blender.
Then you gather up the cracklings in a cheese cloth and press the rest of the lard out using a spoon against the side of the crock pot. Do this until as much of the lard is squeeze out as possible.
Strain the rest of the lard for other uses. I freeze my lard until I'm ready to make soap.
If you are going to eat the cracklings, fresh is best, although my daughter loves to snack on them any time. They can be chopped fine and used in cornbread. If you want to use them later, cover then tightly and store in a cool place.
Once again the Prairie Primer is stretching our culinary skills. So fun to try something new and find a new use for things. Talk about using every part of the animal!